In the legal world, who you know often goes hand in hand with what you know. Networking for LL.M. candidates is not just an optional extra; it is an essential bridge that connects the academic journey with future career success. Building and nurturing a network is not just about quantity, but quality – forming meaningful connections, staying engaged, and giving as much as you receive.
Networking for LL.M. candidates can open doors to a world of opportunities, both academically and professionally. “Networking is a critical skill for both personal and career development in the legal field, and is often the most effective way to find a job or internship,” says Claire Lee, the Associate Director of Professional Development for the American Law, Banking and Finance, Intellectual Property and Tax LL.M. programs at BU Law in Boston.
The vast majority of jobs are never advertised, and employers often prefer to interview and hire those that they already know. The best way to learn about these “hidden” opportunities is to cultivate a network of people who may hear about job opportunities and think of you, she adds. “By networking and speaking with practitioners, students can benefit from learning more about a particular practice area, or about certain employers, so they can more effectively target those opportunities.”
What’s more, LL.M. candidates are in a unique position to build valuable connections. They have the advantage of studying at renowned law schools, which often host numerous networking events. These events can include seminars, conferences, workshops, and panel discussions that bring together legal experts, faculty members, and fellow students.
Joining associations and professional organizations
Beyond this, joining bar associations and other professional organizations are effective ways for LL.M. students to expand their network. “There are national and specialty bar associations catering to attorneys from specific geographic areas or ethnic groups,” Lee says. “Most of these associations provide ‘law student’ or ‘young attorney’ sections, which can be an excellent way to develop networking contacts, while connecting with like-minded people in the legal community who share the same values.”
It is crucial to take advantage of these opportunities to meet like-minded individuals and build relationships with professors and professionals in the field. But before that LL.M. candidates need to do their homework. “Networking is a connection exercise, and figuring out who shares your interests or similar experiences or backgrounds can lead to a great ‘in’ to initiate a connection,” says Joey Dormady, the Assistant Dean for Graduate Programs and New Education Initiatives at Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Arizona State University.
“If a student knows in advance who may be attending a particular event, it is a good idea to learn a bit about those people in advance,” he adds. “This will allow the student to discern who they may want to network with and give them insight into how to approach those people.”
Icebreakers and scripts: helpful
For any networking event, he says it helps to practice a few icebreakers and perhaps script a few things that students will want to convey to the people they plan to interact with. “Getting over the initial hump in any conversation with these scripts will increase the odds that the remainder of any subsequent conversation will be more free-flowing, and it also may ensure that the students can make the points they want to make in limited time,” Dormady says.
Following these initial connections, periodic check-ins are an effective tool to maintain the relationship. But he warns there is a fine line between keeping a connection alive and being annoying: “A check-in once every few months is appropriate.”
Like any skill, networking can be learned and improved through practice, so it is important for LL.M. students to deliberately seek out networking opportunities. “Try to commit to meeting at least five new people at each event to practice and improve your networking skills,” says Alexandria Fawn Sellers, Manager for Programs at Miami Law.
“It may also be reassuring and helpful to bring a friend with you to a networking event, so long as you commit to seeking out other groups of professionals to meet without your friend during the event,” she continues. “In addition, you can practice with a friend or your career advisor on how to introduce yourself, what are the appropriate questions to ask, and which questions you should avoid.”
Remember that networking is an art, she adds – the more you do it, the better at it you will become.